Monday, December 30, 2019

The Best Albums of The Decade: 2010-2019 A Year-By-Year Recap

The decade is coming to a close and it's time to look back at some of the best-of-the-best music releases of the last 10 years. To make things a bit more challenging, we chose to limit our picks to one per year. It was interesting to see if our #1s chosen at the time of their release remained the same at decade end. If you're curious what was on our previous lists, have a look under The Best Albums Lists heading on the right sidebar.

We'd like to thank Rob, John, Tim, Keith, Jesse, Jaymz, Sean and Mike for contributing to this fun project!

And now for the details: Each person selected their absolute favorite album of each year. They also picked a song from each and we've compiled them all into a giant Spotify playlist (it's all the way at the bottom of this post). As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions. Let us know whose list you relate to the most and please share your own choices with us. We hope that you'll find some new tunes to take with you into the next decade. - Bret & sarahQ

P.S. We do earn a commission if you purchase anything through the links in this post.

Bret Helm
Life on this Planet | Audra

To tell you the truth, I haven't listened to The National since 2013's Trouble Will Find Me. I just lost interest. I anticipated that a different album would take the 2010 place in my list. Just to be sure I wasn't leaving any stone unturned, I hit play on this one. Damn. Every song. So good.
Recommended song: Bloodbuzz Ohio

It has been a treat to hear the progression that Zola Jesus has made from album to album. Truly one of my favorite artists of the last 10+ years.
Recommended song: In Your Nature

2012: Bill Fay - Life is People
In 2012, Bill Fay re-emerged with his first album in 40 years. This collection of songs hits hard. It was my #1 pick back then and it still holds that title now. Have a listen to 'Cosmic Concerto' in the playlist at the bottom of this post. It's a song about stopping the hurry of life and taking time to appreciate the simple things surrounding us. It's so emotional and I can't help feeling choked up every time I hear it. "There are miracles in the strangest of places. There are miracles everywhere you go...It's a cosmic concerto and it stirs my soul. Like my old Dad said, 'Life is people.'"
Recommended song: Cosmic Concerto (Life is People)

2013: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - English Electric
This year was nearly impossible to choose a #1. Bowie, Placebo, Suede, Sky Ferreira, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Mark Kozelek / Jimmy LaValle and a few others could've taken the top spot. English Electric by synth-pop legends, OMD is a masterpiece. 33 years after their self-titled debut, these guys sent out into the world what would become perhaps my favorite in their entire discography. It's that good.
Recommended song: Helen of Troy

This Swedish duo made up of sisters Klara & Johanna Söderberg is one of the best acts to emerge from this decade. Whenever someone says, 'There's no good new music' - point them in the direction of the extreme talent of these two. Can't wait for a new record.
Recommended song: Waitress Song

2015: Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone?
This was my #1 pick back in 2015, and it remains my #1. Sadly Majical Cloudz disbanded shortly after this emotional record. Luckily the world has two solo albums (and counting) from singer Devon Welsh so that we may continue to experience his heart-on-sleeve, musical presence.
Recommended song: Downtown

2016: Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Midwest Farmer's Daughter blew me away when I first heard it and the effect has remained. Autobiographical, sincere, gritty yet totally catchy - this is real country music in the modern age. Not convinced? Let's take a look at what I'm putting it over - David Bowie's intense farewell Blackstar, Suede's Night Thoughts and Nick Cave's brilliant Skeleton Tree. Enough said.
Recommended song: Hands of Time

2017: Gary Numan - Savage (Songs from a Broken World)
40+ years into his career and Gary Numan is still releasing exciting and challenging music. He's been a childhood favorite of mine, and ever since his 'creative return' with 1994's Sacrifice, he has not let up.
Recommended song: My Name is Ruin

One minute you're smiling & dancing, the next you have a tear in your eye - these are such powerful, well-crafted songs. Very rarely does a record come out where almost every song could be a single. This is one of them.
Recommended song(s): Mother / Love is a Wild Thing

2019: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
I recently reflected on how I believe that over the last three albums, Nick Cave is releasing some of the best work of his entire career. And Ghosteen is exactly the kind of album that I was hoping he and the band would make. 2016's Skeleton Tree more than hinted at the minimalism that Ghosteen would completely glow in. The reward is gained by those dedicated to hang out in its meditative glory - where the melodies reveal themselves like delicate flowers opening under the moonlight in a distant, untouched field. Stunning.
Recommended song: Spinning Song

Sarah Quarrie Helm
Life on this Planet

2010: Robyn - Body Talk
Reviewing the decade for the albums that stood the test of time also revealed what music formats endured. By 2010 I had let go of the physical format in favor of digital after a long haul move from Chicago to NYC. I stumbled across Robyn's fifth album Body Talk Pt. 1 on eMusic. As a mp3 subscription service your allotted monthly limit expired if not downloaded so I spent a lot of time exploring. It was exciting to follow the Body Talk trilogy and compilation released throughout the year. I can't recall seeing that before or since (I'm interested in hearing of others). This is lighthearted, immature, bittersweet Swedish electropop. Sometimes you don't need eloquent poetry to explain basic hope and rejection. Robyn tells it like it is, and it gets you moving. A favorite album for commuting to/from work along with honorable mention Phantogram's debut Eyelid Movies.
Recommended song: Hang With Me

2011: Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams
I missed this one in real time. Discovered it the following year when "Coming Down" was in rotation on Sirius XMU while I was driving to/from work. I love everything Dee Dee Penny aka Kristin Gundred does from Dum Dum Girls to the Haunted Hearts collaboration with Crocodiles' Brandon Welchez and her solo project Kristin Kontrol. Only in Dreams is one of four Dum Dum Girls albums co-produced by The Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner who puts his polish on this modern 60's garage rock sound.
Recommended song: Coming Down

2012: Purity Ring - Shrines
Witch house creeped in as a genre this decade. While I am not a fan of contrived subgenres, witch house is truly a league of its own as an amalgamation of ethereal, darkwave and hip-hop with occult-ish imagery. Purity Ring is the most accessible of this genre with enough gothic and dreampop attributes to attract label 4AD (Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance) to sign them. Shrines is a sweet lullaby of chopped & screwed Grimms' fairy tales.
Recommended song: Fineshrine

2013: Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time
As Laura Palmer said in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me: "Why are you suddenly so interested in who I'm gonna see at night?  Night time is my time." This album could very well be the soundtrack of Laura Palmer. Think Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, particularly the ball scene with Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Hong Kong Garden." Now replace the movie with David Lynch's Twin Peaks and add Sky Ferreira's songs to every Laura Palmer scene. A bit 80's synthpop mixed with 90's grunge and all the posturing that comes with dealing with the peaks and valleys of relationships. For the Laura Palmer in all of us.
Recommended song: 24 Hours

2014: Alvvays - Alvvays
This is my MOST listened to album of the entire decade. Another one I discovered after the fact, but made up for it in spades. To be honest, the first song I heard was "Archie, Marry Me" played on Sirius XMU which wasn't enough to initially draw me in. After coming across many favorable reviews I finally checked it out and was literally blown away. I LOVE this album so much. Jangly dream pop, they are experts in nostalgic sentiment and mastercrafters of melodies.
Recommended song: Party Police

2015: Low - Ones and Sixes
In the late 90s I used to work with one of the co-founders of Kranky who released 3 of Low's 12 releases. If you would've told my grunge-goth self back then that Low would be a band I hold in high regard I would've been bewildered. Flash forward to this decade, and not only does their 1994 debut I Could Live in Hope hold up ("Words" is one of the most amazing songs of all time) but their 2016 show at City Winery in Nashville is a top concert for me. They genuinely have a command of dynamics and pulsing harmonies which really shine through their minimal execution and gritty slowcore textures.
Recommended song: No Comprende

2016: Minor Victories - Minor Victories
One word comes to mind every time I hear this album: soaring. Out of the gate the first track sets a tone of yearning as all the collaborators fuse their signature sounds together. Rachel Goswell of Slowdive's delicately anxious vocals float within a cinematic post-rock, shoegazed soundscape orchestrated by Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai and Justin Lockey of Editors. Interestingly the entire album was written & recorded by each of them separately, they were never in the same room together yet the music is refined like an intimate relationship.
Recommended song: Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard) ft James Graham of The Twilight Sad

2017: Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
Typically lo-fi is not my jam so this album was not on my radar until a friend recommended it. Boy am I glad I gave it a chance! This is a rock album through and through and was instantly on constant repeat. Partially influenced by it's production from John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth), Out in the Storm is akin to the emotive power pop of the 90's infused with a touch of Southern rock surely from Katie Crutchfield's Alabama roots. Layers of otherworldly harmonies create an atmosphere for looking back on the past when we were not living our best lives or being our best selves.
Recommended song: Recite Remorse

2018: First Aid Kit - Ruins
Oddly enough, I got into indie folk / folk rock when I lived in NYC - prior to me living in Tennessee. The Civil Wars, The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes, The Head and the Heart and The Lone Bellow were making alt-Americana waves at the time. This style of music was typically not of interest to me but with life experience, tastes evolve. I learned that every country essentially has their own brand of folk music, and it was fascinating to me what was happening with this genre across the pond: London's Mumford & Sons, Reykjavík's Of Monsters and Men and Stockholm's First Aid Kit in particular. The Swedish Söderberg sisters are a sonic force. Their harmonies are pure chemistry that separate and unite, creating a fusion that perhaps can only be accomplished by siblings. Layers of choral empathy coordinate with melodic narratives bursting with emotion.
Recommended song: Rebel Heart

2019: Desperate Journalist - In Search of the Miraculous
Underrated or best kept secret? That's what I ask myself every time I listen to a Desperate Journalist album. Their name is a hat tip to The Cure's rework of "Grinding Halt" as "Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation” recorded for a John Peel session following a hostile review of Three Imaginary Boys in 1979. That alone points to good company. In Search of the Miraculous is the 4-piece from London's third release and is proof of progression. Elements of shoegaze and post-punk transcend the limits of genre definitions into a hybrid encapsulating 90's Britpop while Jo Bevan channels her own brand of Martin Rossiter from Gene into emotive musical poetry about the fear and romance of hope. It's albums like these that separate musicians as artists from just a band.
Recommended song: Jonatan

Rob Clark
Rockford, Illinois | Contributor since 2014

The best Vampire Weekend album, as far as I’m concerned. Also an album that both my wife and daughter fell in love with, and we’re all still fans to this day. Like many of the albums in the list that follows, I don’t think there's a bad track on this. They were an absolute blast in concert, as well.
Recommended song: Giving Up the Gun

2011: The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
The band takes a definitive alt-country detour here, with contributions from the likes of Peter Buck, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, and the results are absolutely delightful. I loved this band before, with their penchant for sea shanties and murder ballads, but they opened a completely different door here, boldly walked in, and immediately took charge of the room.
Recommended song: Don't Carry It All

From the moment I first heard “Little Talks” from this Icelandic band’s debut album, I was hooked. What’s odd is that I’m not a fan of some of the bands they have been compared to, like Edward Sharpe & The Magentic Zeroes or Arcade Fire. What really seemed to draw me in was the vocal interplay between singer/guitarists Nanna and Ragnar. The Nordic / pagan / nature themes to many of these songs hit a sweet spot, too. I want to live in the world they create in these songs.
Recommended song: Dirty Paws

There were once three singer/songwriters in the band Drive-By Truckers. I was always most attracted to the ones by Jason Isbell, although I didn’t know who he was at the time. In 2007, he left that band to pursue a solo career, and I became a fan of the albums he was releasing. Southeastern, though, is so good it’s mind blowing. One of those albums where you don’t quite understand how anyone could write songs this good. Perhaps it was his relatively newfound sobriety, but this album is a true masterpiece in any genre.
Recommended song: Relatively Easy

Ps. 2013 was a very difficult year for me, with spectacular albums from David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Frank Turner, Savages, Frightened Rabbit, Gary Numan, and more. Even with all that competition, I kept returning to Southeastern as my favorite album. It really is that great.

I first fell under the spell of Annie Clark in 2011 when I was introduced to her third album, Strange Mercy. Shortly after this delightful discovery, she and David Byrne collaborated on an album called Love This Giant in 2012. I saw them on this tour and was blown away that this (relatively) unknown artist was completely holding her own on stage with the great David Byrne. By the time she released this self-titled album, I was completely hooked on her. Not only does she seem as uniquely talented as someone like Byrne, but I now think of her as an artist as singular and visionary as David Bowie or Kate Bush.
Recommended song: Birth in Reverse

This was absolutely the decade of Frank Turner for me. I was introduced to his magic at a 2013 show during the tour for his Tape Deck Heart album. (That album was a strong contender for my favorite of 2013 but “lost” to Jason Isbell.) Much to my delight his next album, this one, turned out to be as good or better. This guy is a folk singer with a punk aesthetic and a heart of gold. He’s one of the few artists I know that could pull off an album with a theme like this and knock it completely out of the park. Side note: If you have any reservations about the music of Frank Turner , try to see him live. He can turn a room full of strangers into a bouncing, hugging mass of best friends. It’s nothing short of magical.
Recommended song: The Next Storm

I’ve been a Shearwater fan since I heard them being mentioned favorably for fans of latter-period Talk Talk, which I adore. This would be somewhere between their albums Palo Santo (2006) and Rook (2008). If I had any complaint about what they were doing it’s that much of it was very quiet and slow. Their sound was gorgeous, but (to me) often lacked punch. Over the course of their next two albums, I started getting my wish, with 2012’s Animal Joy being their most aggressive album to date. Somehow, Jet Plane and Oxbow managed to find the perfect balance of it all. I suspect this album will be a favorite of mine for many years to come.
Recommended song: Radio Silence

Sounding more like Nine Inch Nails these days than anything he did back in the late 70s and 80s, his 2013 album Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) prompted me to get back on board with this guy. I hadn’t heard much of his stuff since the 80s. By the time he released Savage (Songs From A Broken World) in 2017 I was completely hooked. Both are excellent, gritty, crunchy, industrial-sounding albums, but I feel like Savage has an edge to it that Splinter lacked. Seeing him on tour for this album pretty much clinched it as the standout album of the year for me.
Recommended song: When the World Comes Apart

If there’s one year where I deviated most from the list I created in the year itself, it’s this one. I’m not sure I had heard much from this album by the end of 2018, but I do remember thinking that what I had heard sounded far too poppy and produced for my taste in country music. It wasn’t until further listens in late 2018 and early 2019 that I finally saw the light on this gem and understood what all the critical fuss was about. This might be a lesser achievement without Kacey Musgraves’ gorgeous voice but I understand that she also took a more major role in songwriting and her overall sound in the studio than on her two previous albums. However it worked, it worked!
Recommended song: Slow Burn

It seems like just last week, I was putting the finishing touches on my Favorite Albums of 2019 list... Oh wait, it WAS just last week! I can’t say much has changed since then. The first album in 10 years from Audra is my favorite album in their catalog and my favorite album of 2019. If you haven’t heard it, get on that! There are nods to the kind of post-punk goth that they we’re working on 10+ years ago but everything — the songwriting, the musicianship, the production — has completely grown up and come into it’s own. Listen to it and see for yourself. You won’t regret it.
Recommended song: Sliding Under Cars

Keith Creighton
Seattle, Washington Popdose | Contributor since 2018

Notes from Keith: I went to the CD rack and pulled more than 75 discs off the shelf -- along with two digital-only albums that I remember liking, to create my decade’s best list. I’m still mulling how I would rank my unrestricted Top 25, because these essential titles could easily push some of the above out of the Top 10: Delta Spirit - s/t (2012), Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now (2010 + 2011), Devo - Something For Everybody (2010), Against Me! - White Crosses (2010), Eliot Sumner - Information (2016), Lillix - Tigerlily (2010), Amilia K. Spicer - Wow and Flutter (2017), Angela Perley - Hey Kid (2014), Haley Reinhart - Lo-Fi Soul (2019), Susanna Hoffs - Someday (2012), Billie Eilish - When We All Go To Sleep, Where Do We Go? (2019), The Interrupters - s/t (2014), Bleachers - Terrible Thrills Volume 2 (2015)

Jesse Deitermann | DJ Dreampop Jesse
Phoenix, Arizona | Contributor since 2012

Jesse Ponders: Looking back at the past 10 years, I could have chosen more than 10 albums from each. The ones that stood out to me the most are these. Belle and Sebastian should be on here but I went with a few that everyone knows I love and some that I may have forgotten to add to previous best of lists. Pains are on my list a lot as they are a band that gives me everything I need. Like The Charlatans and Belle and Sebastian, they will always be a favourite (British spelling is intentional) go-to. I can't wait to see what 2020 brings.

From Mike: I listened to more music in this decade than at any other time of my life. I’ve had more fun discovering music this decade than ever before. Through all that time these are the albums that have meant the most to me. I love them all. I just love Orkney: Symphony Of The Magnetic North the most. Can’t wait to see what great music is to come in the next decade. Cheers!

Jaymz Todd
Phoenix, Arizona | Contributor since 2010

2011: Beyoncé - 4
2018: SSION - O 

Jaymz Says: So when it come back to the full decade I’m going to go to the albums that I have listened to the most since announcing my year lists. For most of the years my number ones stood true - however I did have a few changes since. For instance 2013 the Beyoncé album was a surprise release coming right at the tale end of 2013 and wasn’t available for the list ... however since this has probably gotten the most spins outside of the Justin Timberlake album from the same year. Additionally 2012, 2011 & 2010 some of those albums that still fell in my top 5 of those respective years have now from additional listens have moved up to #1. Sometimes you can’t ignore the way an album can be an instance of a life event and each of these have definitely been the soundtrack to something in my life since then. 2016 I have tied as both the .Paak and Wild Beast albums are just so delish with the sounds and rhythm they seep that you cant ignore. 2018 basically you can’t deny the sheer brilliance of O by SSION it’s an amazing catchy album and has something for everyone. 2014 and 15 are back to back Prince albums that too have become apart of my monthly if not weekly playlists. And then 2017 ... this is a hard one because an album from this year I still pull out practically weekly, however The Prids album still hits me incredibly hard. They are one of my truly favorite bands and it was a long wait to finally hear and it still has yet to let me down. Seriously these last 10 years have had a lot to gather and a lot to listen to and though these are my ultimate too 10 (11) there truly still is a hell of amazing 100 or more. Here’s to 2020 and beyond.

Sean Benham
Chicago, Illinois | Contributor since 2018

This is Simon Green’s best album in his career. It’s a great mixture of electronic and world beat.
Recommended song: Kiara

Reminiscent of the work of REM, and their second release, it’s steeped in great melody and lovely lyrics. A feel good album all around.
Recommended song: Easy

Love this heavily vibed 1980’s sounding album, starting off with one of my favorite Neil Young tracks. This takes me back to the days of listening to Berlin as a kid.
Recommended song: Into the Black

This is potentially my favorite Bibio album. A mixture of folk and electronic that is soaked in dreamland.
Recommended song: The First Daffodils

Beck’s career has been quite amazing for a solo artist. For me, his work stands up there with very few individuals that has the diversity in sound  — grunge, rap, country, electronic, folk, indie, pop, the list goes on. Morning Phase took his previous work of One Foot in the Grave, Mutations, and Sea Change and made literally a masterpiece. Many call this the companion piece to Sea Change. The result, and to my complete surprise, winning two Grammy Awards (Album of the Year, and Best Album). Usually my list doesn’t match up with Grammys ever, so kudos to those who nominated him!
Recommended song: Say Goodbye

Spawning out of the epic Swedish band, Dungen, The Amazing wrote some wonderful indie/psychedelic tracks. Picture You song is about as lovely as you can get. The album just has hit after hit and never stops.
Recommended song: Broken

Scott Hansen took his electronic work and notched it up with a very indie sounding album. Rory O’Connor’s (aka Nitemoves) drumming really adds the icing on this electronic release.
Recommended song: Glider

Another band out of the past, showing us all how great Slowdive is and always was. The wall of sound is let loose once again and with the full original line up!
Recommended song: Sugar for the Pill

After several years off, Film School came back with a brilliant album. It kept with their past of great guitar sounds, and catchy melodies. Film School showed us in the early 2000s that shoegaze is alive and won’t die with the British media of the 1990s.
Recommended song: Crushin

A masterpiece of poetry and grace. Nick takes us on a journey that is both sad and beautiful.
Recommended song: Bright Horses

Tim Brown

London, England | Contributor since 2017

2010: The Black Keys - Brothers
My brother introduced me to this album - rather appropriately! Stripped-down blues at its best.

2011: Amy Winehouse - Lioness: Hidden Treasures
Another talent lost tragically lost too early. This encapsulates the hauntingly, beautiful voice and the fragility & the genius that was Amy.

2012: Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
What can you say? An underrated masterpiece - lyrically, some of his best. Loved it at the time, still do.

2013: Arctic Monkeys - AM
Alex Turner always produces his best work when capturing the essence of relationships in trouble or just plain over. 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High' and 'RU Mine?' are two great examples of his skill. Brilliant.

2014: Milky Chance - Sadnecessary
Always a joy when my kids introduce me to new music. Let's face it, I've foisted my taste off on them for long enough! German pop rock duo Milky Chance are one such gem.

2015: Chris Stapleton - Traveller
Not my usual cup of tea, but I love this album. Sometimes you have to set aside the stereotypes and trust your ears!

2016: Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
If I had to choose my overall favourite of the decade, this would be it. Just a beautiful album - lyrically and musically. Plus a friend of mine did the cover art!

2017: Gorillaz - Humanz
One of those albums that just cheers me up when I hear it. Bought as a present by one of my kids when I was mid-cancer treatment. Always brings a smile to my face.

2018: Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Wasn't sure the first time I heard it as it's very different from their other stuff. Way more mellow, psychedelic even and the subject matter is a bit strange. Definitely grew on me and here it is on another Best of List.

Just go back and read what I said about my number one in the Best of 2019 list. What did I tell you!!!

John Magness
Uttoxeter, England | Contributor since 2015

Words from John: Going back over the decade was really interesting. It's hard to believe that 10 years went by just like that. Narrowing it down wasn't that hard, my best of is made up of those records that I've returned to - not necessarily the ones I thought were the best at the time. 2012 was particularly hard though, what a great year. I also noticed that quite a few of the albums were those recommended by people I've got to know through this group!!

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